Research Seminars

This free series of research seminars gives an opportunity for researchers (staff, post-graduate students and Visiting Scholars) to present their work, discuss their ideas and explore the connections between the different disciplines that make up the School.

The School of Humanities Research Seminars take place on Wednesday afternoons 4:15pm - 6:00pm. All are welcome but registration is required.

If you have any queries or would like to offer a paper for the new series please contact Dr Sarah Lawson Welsh or Dr Stuart Jesson 


Upcoming events

2019-20 Semester Two

Previous HRP School Research Seminars

2017-18 Semester Two


16 May 2018 (Week 14)

Dr Karen Schaller (UEA): ‘Rubbing: On Feminine Diligence and Masculine Shine’


In this paper I explore gendered experiences of academic labour in order to think about what a feminist literary practice might look like now. Drawing on a range of materials from the lived experience of being a woman academic, I work over the language of conscientiousness and diligence, brilliance and shine, to consider how the politics of gender texture our work and ourselves in our promotion guidelines, the ways we communicate with and speak about each other, and the grooming practices that contextualise our careers. I turn to the notion of ‘rubbing’ as a descriptor for feminised labour in academia, and ask whether it might, also, pose a possibility for a feminist practice within these contexts. Turning to three cultural texts where the erotics of violence and care are staged through rubbing - Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’, Ani Di Franco’s ‘Shameless’, and Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, I ask whether - and if so how - the rubbing we encounter in these might pose possibilities for feminist literary practice now.



2 May 2018 (Week 12)

Dr Elodie Duché (York St John University): ‘Prisoner of war libraries during the Napoleonic conflicts’


The Napoleonic Wars were a period of heightened mobility: not only regiments, but civilians, commodities and ideas travelled on a transnational if not global scale during the period. Prisoners of war were at the forefront of this transit, having been forcibly displaced by war itself. By looking at the movements of these captives, and the readings that accompanied their journeys, we can get a better understanding of the importance and experience of coerced mobility during the conflict. Some work has already been done in that direction, yet the scholarship has thus far focused on the case of French prisoners of war in Britain. This paper aims to shift the perspective by looking at the neglected itineraries and readings of an estimated 16,000 British prisoners of war in Napoleonic France and Mauritius. Drawing on inventories of the Franco-British library established by British captives in Verdun, along with various ego-documents kept by the prisoners themselves – such as common-place books and diaries –, the paper intends to highlight how these prisoners found themselves at the confluence of local, national, imperial and transnational reading worlds during a decade of imprisonment. A study of the books and stories that travelled with them reveals the complex contacts they made in war captivity through the practice of reading and discussing texts.




1 May 2018 (Week 11)

Prof David Clough (University of Chester): 'Eating Peaceably: Christianity and Veganism'


This paper will argue that killing animals for food has never been a comfortable fit with Christian faith, which affirms God’s will for peace between creatures. Since most humans now no longer need to kill to eat; since the ways we now raise animals are bad for humans and the planet, as well as for farmed and wild animals; and since we now know very much more about the complex cognition and social lives of other animals, Christians with others have good reason to eat more peaceably by moving to a plant-based diet.





18 April 2018 (Week 10)

Dr Yuhong Ma: Chinese Traditional Confucian Women’s Virtue Education in the Vision of the Heavenly Way ‘ 


Men and women are intimately connected with the Heavens and Earth, Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang, gentle and firm, these are the beginnings of the Heavens and Earth, by the united action of Yin and Yang all things spring up. Men and women, creativity and formation, these are the beginnings of human relationships, and by the harmony between men and women all families grow prosperous. Families’ prosper or destroy, and nation’s rise or fall, depend on women’s worthy or unworthy behaviour. In Chinese Confucian culture there are lots of classics on women virtue education, such as The Book of Odes, The Classic of Changes, The Record of Rites, Biographies of Women, Lessons for Women, The Analects for Women, The Book of Filial Piety for Women, The Instructions for the Inner Court, The Short Records of Models for Women. Women virtue education is very important in China. Ban Zhao, the first woman historian and the greatest woman scholar in Chinese history, says in her Lessons for Women, “As Yin and Yang are not of the same nature, so man and woman have different characteristics. The distinctive quality of Yang is rigidity; the function of Yin is yielding. A man is honoured for strength; a woman is beautiful on account of her gentleness … the Way of respect and acquiescence is woman’s most important principle of conduct.” To be a woman of virtue in Chinese Confucian culture requires four qualifications: womanly virtue, womanly speech, womanly appearance, and womanly work. Womanly virtue has been placed in the first place. The most important virtues of women are filial obedience and respectfulness, purity and chastity, humbleness and submissiveness, diligence and frugality, and trustworthiness and compassion. The Way is the beginning of life; the essence of life lies in walking according to the Way, it is called the virtue. Chinese Confucian culture exalts the Way and cherishes virtue. If a woman treasures the Heavenly Way in her heart and cultivates virtue in her lifetime, then her good behaviour will bring benefits to herself, family and nation. This is the Chinese traditional Confucian virtue education for women!



14 March 2018 (Week 8)

Revd Dr John Williams: ‘Ecclesianarchy: Excursions into Deconstructive Church’ 


The background to this paper lies in two published articles in which the author explores how, since the Mission Shaped Church Report of 2004, the Church of England's mission and ministry strategies have been developed against a broad understanding of 'postmodernity' as the cultural context for ministry and mission today. The author has argued that the tendency of the Church is to co-opt elements of sociological theoretical frameworks in support of presentational and, to a limited extent, structural changes (improved marketing, in essence) without allowing the implications of these frameworks radically to challenge ecclesiological or theological foundations. This paper is intended as an experiment in pursuing the logic of a postmodern discourse about the Church to brings its more radical implications into view: it begins to sketch out an alternative view of church as an 'ecclesianarchy', the distinctive purpose of which is to become a socio-cultural site for the symbolisation and enactment of the impossible.


28 February 2018 (Week 6)

Dr Stuart Jesson: 'Should we Love the World?* Nietzsche and Weil on Affirmation'


Simone Weil claimed that she felt an ‘invincible, almost physical repulsion’ when reading Nietzsche. Nevertheless, this paper will show that despite this professed aversion, some of Weil’s most central concerns can be read as being situated within a distinctly Nietzschean problematic. In both Nietzsche and Weil we find a number of guiding assumptions: that affirmation is a fundamental task of human existence; that affirmation has an ‘all or nothing’ character (one either affirms the whole, and everything within it, or not at all); that affirmation is rare, difficult, or traumatic in some important and existentially revealing way. Finally, both thinkers assume that one can be transfigured through such love, or affirmation. The paper identifies and offers commentary upon a previously un-remarked consonance between the two thinkers on the issue of affirmation, or love of reality, and asks what use can be made of this strain of thinking. Is it even possible to affirm ‘reality’, or to love ‘the world’? *Tl;dr: possibly not



31 January 2018 (Week 2)

Joanna Starzynski (York St John University): ‘Archival Footage: Community, Identity, Methodology’


This paper analyses the methodology of how to historically examine archival footage and how the process of archiving can help to comprehend film footage. Prior to looking at archival footage the provenance of the history of the archives (meaning film archive footage as a whole) and storage of archival footage shall be analysed to enhance the knowledge gained from this research and fully explain the archiving process[1]. This paper aims to challenge and explore the perceptions of community during these contexts and analyse what is shown and what is not shown within the archival film footage. This seminar shall interrogate, primarily pieces of footage gathered from WWI as well as some films from the interwar period to establish the provenance of each piece of footage and how it interrelates with the wider themes of this research surrounding community and identity[2]. In order to understand the interrelation between the films, society and community the provenance and origin of each piece of footage shall be examined. The provenance of each piece of footage in the archives shall be examined after the piece of footage has been viewed, both in this research and the seminar, as it is important to consider as a researcher how knowledge of the source may impact my reading of the film. The key differences that shall be investigated and define the provenance of the film footage are distinguishing the difference between professional and amateur footage as well as home movies. The differences that make each type of footage distinct define the background which underlies the creation of these films[3]. Therefore, by using this methodology it impacts and aids the comprehension of the evolution of what constitutes a community in the past in comparison to the present.


[1] O’Neill, E. M. 2006. British world war films 1945-1965: Catharsis or national regeneration. . Doctor of Philosophy. University of Central Lancashire.

[2] Stockwell, P. 2016. The texture of authorial intention. In: World building: Discourse in the mind. ., Eds. Gavins, J. & Lahey, E., 147-163. London: Bloomsbury.

[3] Zimmerman, P. R. 1995. Reel families: A social history of amateur film. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


2017-18 Semester One

6 December 2017 (Week 12)

Sharon Winfield , University of York: The Erasure of the Female Priest:  How Sexist IS the Church of England?


When women began to be ordained as priests in the Church of England in 1994, a dual structure was created known as the 'two integrities' to allow those who continue to oppose women's ordination to maintain institutional life served by a male-only priesthood and 'flying bishops' who remain untainted by women's ordination.  My research explores whether women priests are changing the emphasis on gender differentiation in the material and symbolic world of the Church and whether they remain in liminality because of the two integrities.  I ask how women priests establish their sense of belonging in an institution where their ordained status is erased through gendered beliefs about authority, the sacraments, and the divine and in what ways they resist and rebel against masculininsed practices, language and symbols.

22 November 2017 (Week 10)

Professor Abi Curtis: Pollinate: a short fiction inspired by research


Set in the next century, we follow the story of Amber, one of many young humans employed to hand-pollinate crops now that bees are extinct. Amber is new to the job and fascinated in particular by fellow pollinator, Briony, whose pollinating dance is mesmerising. In this future world, the pollinators must work the summers to gain passports and the freedom to travel, and are controlled by an Overseer who educates them about the bees, so long extinct no young person has never seen them. As Amber works, she wonders about the woods at the edge of the plantation, and why she is forbidden to go there. Earth tremors, minor quakes, occur weekly, but their increasing severity starts to alarm. The form of the story vibrates and trembles with the strangeness of an existence where the eco-system is struggling to cope with the imbalances caused by humans.

Abi will read this short fiction, and talk about the research that inspired it – scientific, ecological and literary.

1st November 2017 (Week 7)

Dr Esther McIntosh: Feminism and Misogyny in Online Christianity


Digital media has opened up a new space for Christians to share, debate, support and critique their religion. Evangelical churches encourage the use of social media as an evangelistic tool; yet, research in media and communication studies (Wilson and Moore, 2008) shows that new recruits are rarely made this way. On the contrary, while the internet held the promise of a forum for exploring varied ideas and expanding points of view, in practice users gravitate towards like-minded individuals and find support for views they already hold (Mahan, 2012). Such support can be positive for those whose voice is otherwise silenced, ignored or shouted down. Since the 1960s, the tussle between feminism and Christianity has seen many women abandon institutionalised Christianity (Woodhead, 2013), while other women have campaigned relentlessly for female ordination and equality of roles. On the one hand, the internet assists women in having their voices heard and in finding supportive listeners; on the other hand, it also exposes them to trolling, including extreme, vitriolic and misogynistic threats and abuse through which those within Christian circles who seek to maintain gender inequality, often on the basis of a tradition that promotes male domination, female subservience, sacrifice and complementarity are galvanised and legitimised in their views. Whether the use of digital media is assisting, hindering or making no difference to feminist Christians in their fight for equality has yet to be analysed. While large numbers of white evangelical women voted for Trump despite ‘fake news’ and blatant misogyny, research into online religion (Campbell, 2010; Cheong, et al., 2012) rarely mentions gender; this paper will begin to fill that gap.

18th October 2017 (Week 5)

Dr Kaley Kramer First in Antiquity: Francis Drake and the re-creation of ‘Eboracum’


Dr Kramer’s paper will focus on a remarkable work of antiquarianism, and the first detailed history of an English town outside of London: Francis Drake’s Eboracum. This paper will consider the ways in which Drake’s text strategically positions York as a continuation of the Roman ‘Eboracum’, locating in York the physical and cultural legacies of England’s Roman past. In doing so, Drake claims for York a position of cultural prominence otherwise lost in the descending fortunes of the city after the Civil War.

Kaley Kramer completed her PhD at the University of Leeds and taught there and at Leeds Beckett University until taking up her position as Lecture in English Literature at York St John University in 2011. Kaley’s research focuses on women’s writing in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, particularly questions of property, authorship, legal discourse, and historiography.

4 October 2017 (Week 3)

Dr Chris Maunder: ‘Desperately Seeking Mary in the New Testament’


Chris Maunder is the editor of the Oxford Handbook of Mary, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2019. He will contribute the opening chapter on Mary in the New Testament, which is an important prelude to the chapters on Marian theology, art, pilgrimage, and devotion, as the New Testament passages laid the groundwork for the Marian cult as it developed over centuries.


2016-17 Series

25 January 2017 (Week 1)

Dani Adams (TRS, York St John University): ‘Divine Conservation and Spacetime Substantivalism’


According to classical theism, God has at least two causal roles: he creates the world, and he conserves it. There is, however, disagreement over how these two roles relate to each other. Creative conservation theorists maintain that divine conservation is continuous creation ex nihilo; non-creative conservation theorists maintain that conservation and creation are distinct kinds of causal relation. This paper outlines these standard models and their well-known problems, and argues that the contemporary alternatives offered by Quinn and Vander Laan encounter the same kinds of difficulties as the standard models. However, the problems facing these extant models provide some desiderata that any successful account of divine conservation ought to fulfill. The following positive account is then put forward: that endorsing a substantivalist view of space-time provides theists with a coherent model of divine conservation. This account is a novel kind of non-creative view, which pictures conservation as a joint causal enterprise involving God and worldly creatures. The paper argues that such a model successfully avoids the problems encountered by extant positions and meets the outlined desiderata. After considering and rebutting some potential lines of objection, the paper concludes that this substantival account provides the best model of conservation on offer.


8 February 2017 (Week 3)

Lauren Stephenson (Media, York St John University): 'Under Attack: representing the Black working class man in British 'Hoodie Horror'


Horror, like many genres, is saturated with representations of whiteness. As a result, black characters often operate within a space that is arguably more peripheral than that which a film’s antagonist occupies. The majority of films within the British ‘hoodie horror’ subgenre follow this pattern, in some cases representing the working-class demographic as entirely white.

However, hoodie horror films such as Cherry Tree Lane (Williams, 2010), Attack the Block (Cornish, 2011) and Comedown (Huda, 2012) offer narratives driven by a black male lead. In each film, the lead is challenged by his situation and has to make a choice – to be a hero or become the villain. Each character possesses the potential for both, and each takes a different path to attempt survival. Interestingly, regardless of the different choices made by each character, the narrative outcome for all has a strikingly similar and pessimistic tone. Two of the three leads end their narratives incarcerated, whilst the other, we presume, is dead. This trajectory is treated as inevitable for the black male character, thereby calling into question how willing and able the horror genre and its filmmakers are to allow a black man to survive a narrative without being contained at its conclusion. These narratives are particularly poignant in their closeness to the very real concern around racial profiling and racially-motivated violence – these films effectively bracket the shooting dead of black man Mark Duggan by police in the summer of 2011.

Using the seminal work of R.R. Means Coleman, this paper will discuss how these films fit within the canon of Black Horror cinema, as well as considering how these representations fit within a specifically British socio-economic context.

22 February 2017 (Week 5)

Ian Horwood (History, York St John University)


8 March 2017 (Week 7)

Sarah Jackson (English, Nottingham Trent University)


22 March 2017 (Week 9)

Lucy Schofield (Geography, York St John University)


How much carbon does a forest contain? What is the value of the timber stock? What habitats could the vegetation structure support? How will a changing climate affect forest growth? These are important questions that require measurements currently very difficult to obtain. Recently developed laser scanning instruments which use the reflection of laser light to construct a 3D image of the trees could hold the answer, allowing the measurement of forests at a level of detail never seen before. Based on ongoing research, the first part of the seminar will explore this novel approach to forest science. The second part of the session will focus on Geographical Information Systems (GIS), a digital environment for mapping and analysing geographic data. The key features and applications of GIS will be illustrated using examples from a range of disciplines across the School – so come along and find out what it is, and how it may be useful to both research and teaching in your area.

10 May 2017 (Week 12)

Jude Lal Fernando (Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin)



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